• Jonathan Bloom writes about why we waste food, why it matters and what we can do about it. This is his blog.

Bay State Bombshell

In case you missed the big news, Massachusetts is set to ban commercial food waste from landfills by 2014. I included it in Friday’s post, but it deserves its own space.

The new regulations would herald a major change–a few cities have similar rules on the books, but no state does. The ruling would prompt businesses and commercial kitchens to approach food differently, hastening food waste reduction.

And the news gets even better–there are plans to expand the ban to household food waste by 2020.

Before this change occurs, the composting and biogas infrastructure need work. But a guaranteed flow of food waste business–an additional 350,000 tons of clams, cranberries, etc. per year–should prompt new facilities.

There have been a few expressions of concern, mostly on the cost for restaurants. While that’s to be expected, this should be a universal (or global) win. Given the expensive Mass. landfill rates of $60-90 per ton (national average is $45), finding alternative uses for food should be cheaper, in addition to environmentally preferable.

One thing that remains a mystery–is this a done deal? Or can lawmakers screw it up? The Globe article indicates the former. Let’s hope so!

May 7, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Energy, Environment, Restaurant, Waste Stream | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

This Just In: Massachusetts is planning to ban commercial food waste from landfills. That means large restaurants, hospitals, universities and other large generators would have to compost or create energy with their waste. The ban, likely to go into effect in 2014, would be the first of its kind in the U.S.

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Chuck Schumer knows that anaerobic digestion is a ‘game changer.’ He cut the ribbon at the opening of a New York biogas facility to turn manure and food waste into energy.

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Next door, Connecticut is beginning to focus on extracting energy from its food waste.

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Eating more of every animal–it’s the green thing to do.

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Here’s a decent guideline for supermarkets–a recent audit found that 59% of an Illinois Whole Foods trash was compostable.

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Finally, this piece has some good advice on how restaurants can become more sustainable, including keeping a better eye on waste (scroll to the bottom).

May 4, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Restaurant, Supermarket, Waste Stream | Comments closed

Sensing a Problem II

There’s something in the air at Boston-area universities. The smell of rotten fruit, perhaps?

Last week I wrote about a Tufts project to embed scannable, edible patches on food items to communicate bacteria levels. Now comes word of an M.I.T. project to help retailers know when food is ripening:

The new sensors, described in the journal Angewandte Chemie, can detect tiny amounts of ethylene, a gas that promotes ripening in plants. Swager envisions the inexpensive sensors attached to cardboard boxes of produce and scanned with a handheld device that would reveal the contents’ ripeness. That way, grocers would know when to put certain items on sale to move them before they get too ripe.

These ethylene sensors could be a useful idea for a supermarket industry that loses about 10% of its fresh fruits annually. Especially given that the supermarket industry is now contemplating how to reduce its food waste.

My guess is that these sensors will sink or swim on affordability. At about $1 for both the sensor that detects ethylene levels and the RFID chip to communicate them, I’d say they’re on the right track.

(HT Treehugger)

May 3, 2012 | Posted in Supermarket, Technology | Comments closed

Putting Food In Its Place

One of the main reasons we waste food is that we don’t know what we have on hand. That’s why  storing food in clear containers is so important.

Another way I’ve been avoiding waste lately has been by using this:

I know what you’re thinking: ‘How does a really, really shiny pepper help avoid waste?’ Guess what, folks–it’s not an actual red pepper. It’s a storage container for peppers!

When you’re using one of these, there’s no mistaking what’s inside. (Unless, that is, it’s a yellow pepper!)  When I see this container in the fridge, I know that I have pepper waiting to be used.

(And no, there isn’t another pepper inside of that one.)

May 1, 2012 | Posted in Household, Personal | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

Korea may be onto something with their trash reduction strategy–using (RFID) electronic chips to help users pay for what they throw!

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The food safety experts at Consumer Reports weigh in on what ketchup rates highest how long summer condiments stay good. In my opinion, they err a tad on the cautious side (two weeks for pickles?!).

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Indian abundance could mean more waste, as the crop could exceed storage space. This is especially galling in the nation with the most hungry people.

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There’s plenty afoot on May Day (aka Lei Day!), but it also marks the start of expanded curbside composting in Vancouver.

April 27, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Friday Buffet, International, Technology | Comments closed

Sensing a Problem

I promise I don’t hate technology. I’m not writing this on parchment paper in a cave. But when I read about this scannable, edible patch, I wasn’t thrilled.

A Tufts professor has created a patch made from gold (Gold?! ) and plastic (yum!) that your smarty talky gizmo smartphone reads to note how much bacteria is on your food.

As seen in the local news coverage, the patch is supposed to communicate both whether or not food is still good and also whether it may have a food borne illnesses like e. coli. I think the latter can be quite useful, but the former will lead to much edible food being tossed–like we see at the end of the news segment (Argh!).

The problem, as I see it, is that the sensors will enhance the notion that we aren’t able to tell for ourselves whether or not food remains good. And it’s not going to err on the risky side. Thus, it will encourage more discarding of edible food. A better, lower-tech solution, is to trust your senses instead, as the mom interviewed says she’ll just have to do while waiting the 3-5 years for the sensors to come out.

Note to TV producers: Putting an edible sensor on a banana peel isn’t the best.

Note II: How will this thing save us money?

April 26, 2012 | Posted in Food Safety, Household, Technology | Comments closed

Finnishing Food Waste?

It’s always nice to learn about food waste in a country we don’t often hear from. Today, we see a study on food waste in Finland.

Three quick thoughts on the report:

  • Finns waste less food than most Europeans/North Americans.
  • Finnish households produce more waste than any other sector (30-40 percent of the waste). But…I’m not sure if the study accounts for farm level waste. Food grown but not harvested usually tops home waste, but isn’t always counted in these studies.
  • I love how the study transforms food waste into its environmental impact. About 1 percent of Finnish greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste.
April 23, 2012 | Posted in International | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

The curbside composting program in State College, Penn. is up and roaring and slated to go borough-wide in 2013.

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Glad to hear that URI is trying to minimize its food waste, but I’ve never heard of the need for “waste refrigerators” to keep waste cool before composting. And compost collection certainly happens in places a lot warmer than Rhode Island.

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The EPA has partnered with food recovery group Philabundance to help divert food from landfills as part of the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge.

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In another kind of challenge, Squawkfox is touting a $55 million Food Waste Challenge. The Canadian site is hoping its 37,000 readers commit to reducing their household waste to save $1,500 each. Definitely worth squawking about.

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And finally, Aramark (minus the caps lock) toots its own trayless horn. Encouragingly, removing trays from all-you-can eat facilities is pretty much the norm.

April 20, 2012 | Posted in General | Comments closed

Bieber Battles Waste

There’s that constant blog temptation to link to popular search terms like Bieber and American Wasteland. But this time there’s good reason: Justin Bieber loves food and hates waste.

The Biebs recently trimmed his food demands in his tour rider, demanding less dressing room food at each concert venue. Perhaps the pop star made the change as a result of his mounting eco awareness. Or maybe it came in response to said rider being published on The Smoking Gun. (Four loaves of bread does seem a bit much.)

No matter the reason, seeing this quote appear in Seventeen, where it’ll reach plenty of adoring girls, is neat:

“Recently, there were so many things in my rider that went to waste, so I took a lot of things off my rider. Every day we were buying all this stuff and it was just sitting there. I got rid of it, I didn’t want to waste all the food.”

April 16, 2012 | Posted in Events | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

The Wormdorf Astoria is now taking reservations. A Boca Raton man has created compact vermiculture method and named it creatively.

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Zéro Gâchis? My French is a little rusty, but I think it translates to ‘cool app.’

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Some big names are investing in food waste-to-energy companies.

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This just in from ConAgra, who illustrate that no detail is too small to consider, especially when you’re producing food on a large scale:

Plant leaders worked with Quality Assurance to determine that excess flour used to prevent dough from sticking to rollers could be repurposed. The new process will save 96.2 tons of safe flour from heading to a landfill annually.

April 13, 2012 | Posted in Energy, Friday Buffet, International, Vermiculture | Comments closed
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